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News » ZERO WIN CHILL


ZERO WIN CHILL


ZERO WIN CHILL
Browns


Having played and coached here and later dominant here as an opposing coach, Bill Cowher doesn't need anyone to sell him on the passion of the Browns' faithful.

But even the No. 1 candidate on Cleveland's head coach list had to be impressed - watching from his comfy studio seat at CBS - that Cleveland Browns Stadium was even half-full Sunday to witness another exercise in offensive futility.

Brutal, frigid wind gusts of 26 mph reduced the wind chill to zero. It was a great day to stay home and slug back eggnog in a warm lounge chair. Yet about 40,000 showed up to say farewell to the most underachieving Browns team in recent memory.

Alas, the Browns did not meet the challenge of presenting one last victory in the home season, on the chance that someone was in attendance who'd never seen them win before. Or, for that matter, score a touchdown.

The Browns actually outdid themselves this time, failing to register a point in a 14-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals , whose record is 3-11-1.

The loss was the Browns' fifth in a row and marked their fifth straight game without an offensive touchdown. They have lost eight of nine to sink to 4-11 and finished their home season with a 1-7 record - opposite of last season's 7-1 edition.

"I played in a season where we went five games without a touchdown and went to the Super Bowl [with Baltimore]," said Jamal Lewis, who cracked the 10,000-yard career mark with 76 rushing yards on the day. "This is my toughest season ever. Oh yeah, the worst season."

Quarterback Ken Dorsey threw three interceptions before leaving with his ribs throbbing and head foggy from repeated hits by Bengals defenders.

All three picks were intended for Braylon Edwards and were stolen by Edwards' former Michigan teammate Leon Hall, who returned one 50 yards for a touchdown.

Bruce Gradkowski replaced Dorsey with 3? minutes left and added an interception for posterity. He may be the starting quarterback when the steel curtain on this season falls hard in Pittsburgh next weekend.

The good news for the Browns is the Steelers' loss to Tennessee on Sunday wrapped up a No. 2 playoff seed for Pittsburgh. So the game against the Browns means nothing to the Steelers, who would expect to give substantial playing time to backup quarterback Byron Leftwich and other reserves.

Defensively on Sunday, the Browns watched Cedric Benson run up career highs of 38 rushing attempts and 171 yards. That success enabled Bengals coach Marvin Lewis to post his sixth win in eight meetings against Romeo Crennel while limiting fill-in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to nine passes, just one after halftime.

Lewis' Bengals also shut out the Browns, 30-0, in 2006.

"I thought in the running game we moved the unmovable object a bit and were able to get some runs," Lewis said, in an apparent reference to Browns Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers.

"We knew they were going to run the ball and run the ball. We just couldn't get off the field early in the game," said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.

On Cincinnati's only offensive touchdown drive, the Bengals held the ball for 8 minutes, 36 seconds, which is astonishing for a team missing its top quarterback (Carson Palmer) and receiver (Chad Johnson) and ranked 32nd on offense.

On that possession, the Browns surrendered first downs on third-and-4, third-and-11, third-and-4 and third-and-5, setting up a Fitzpatrick touchdown throw of 20 yards - on third-and-7 - to Chris Henry. As is his custom, cornerback Eric Wright never looked for the ball as it floated over his helmet and into Henry's hands.

So while it's fashionable to lambaste the Browns' depleted offense, the defense continues to stagger to the finish line playing poorly, with most of its starters still on the field.

Dorsey had no chance throwing into the wind gusts (toward the Dawg Pound end zone), so coordinator Rob Chudzinski tried airing it out in the direction of the wind. That was no use, either.

Dorsey's first pass - after three Josh Cribbs runs and one by Lewis - was a long sideline out pattern intended for Edwards that Hall jumped in front of, intercepted and returned 50 yards for the touchdown. It was the second game in a row a Dorsey interception was returned 50 yards for a score.

Hall intercepted Dorsey in the third quarter on a pass into the wind floating wildly behind Edwards. He completed a hat trick with his third pick on another deep pass Dorsey lofted with the wind toward Edwards.

"We knew exactly what they would do," said Bengals safety Chris Crocker, a former Browns draft pick. "We took chances jumping routes. Why not? What's to lose? I didn't expect a zero [shutout], though."

For Edwards, the game marked the end of his miserable home season. Besides the three interceptions, he was involved in a couple knockdowns with Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe. Edwards blindsided Ndukwe on a Cribbs end-around run. Ndukwe got him back during Hall's second interception return.

Edwards, who infuriated many fans last week with comments about feeling unappreciated, said he heard "some cheers, some boos."

"They were here. Which means they care about us," Edwards said.

Yes, the fans showed up, which is more than the Browns can say.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: tgrossi@plaind.com, 216-999-4670



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 24, 2008

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